Intermittent cold misfire

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  #1  
Old 05-28-09, 10:14 AM
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Intermittent cold misfire

Okay, haven't had time to kick this around locally, so figured I would rack everyone's brain (why should I be the only one ). This is on the '94 Chevy W-4 wrecker, 5.7L Chevy motor. And yes I know this is a truck question in the auto forum; Mod's perrogative .

Here's the deal. Starting Tuesday I've had a phantom misfire. That morning I could tell I wasn't running on all 8 for about the first hour in the morning; after that it never missed the beat the rest of the day and I had a pretty busy day. When I finally had time to pop the cab and look around the only thing I found was one suspect plug wire - side note: the set does not have a lot of miles on them; this one was sitting against a heater hose clamp end and had a small indentation worn in it. Replaced the wire. Did some more calls, no problems. Wednesday morning I jumped in the truck and turned the key; spun over fine but no fire. [expletive deleted ]. Proceeded to run the list of possibles.

All fuses good. Confirmed it was a no-spark problem. Have some spare parts so began trading. Spliced in a coil, no change. Popped off distributor cap and checked rotor and cap, nothing noted. Changed the ignition module, success - truck runs. Tried to confirm by swapping old module back - truck still started. Said screw it and left it at that so I could run to store. Got about a block and the misfire was so bad I looped back to house. Started checking everything again starting with wires; seem to be getting good spark on all. Popped dist cap again and decided to try rotor - still misfire noticeable. Tried splicing in spare coil again - misfire cured. Reconnected coil, misfires. Ah, problem found, swapped coils out. With replacement coil in, no misfires. Buttoned up and ran to store and back, never missed a beat. Slow day so worked on the shower door replacement I was doing. About three hours later phone rings with a call to go about 30 miles up the interstate to bring back a p/u truck. Jumped in and started up and could feel misfiring. Threw my hands up and kept going. Before I got on the interstate (about 5 miles) it had cleared. Drove 65-70 all the way and back, never missed a beat. This morning jumped in for a call and felt the misfire again. Lasted about 30 miutes or so (just like Tuesday pretty much) and then cleared. Nothing since. Oh, almost forgot; in the mix I inspected the wires and connectors on the coil/module with nothing noted; when I was picking up the pickup up the interstate I even reached in and wiggled all the wiring in the area to try to induce the problem if it was wiring-related.

One additioal note to throw in. Some may recall I was tearing my hair out several months ago with a random misfire that turned out to be a worn distributior (shaft was wobbling around). The replacement distributor wore out ITS shaft bearing in about 7,000 miles (cheap bearing), so replaced again. At the time I chased my tale for half a day because I just KNEW it couldn't be the same problem as before . Needless to say the first time I had the cap off in this latest adventure I tried to wiggle the distributor shaft; nope, good as new (and now has about as many miles as the one that failed prematurely).

Okay, think I included everything. I'm open for suggestions. My best towing buddy has a theory, but I'll keep that to myself unless someone suggests the same.
 
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Old 05-28-09, 03:35 PM
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John, where are the Cliff notes for your post?

In all seriousness, have you inspected your battery/alt cables? I had a problem with my car feeling like it was misfiring, but turned out to be a bad cable. The ignition was not getting enough juice.

Also, check your belts, maybe it's slipping on the alternator, which also would cause it to loose power.
 
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Old 05-28-09, 04:30 PM
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Look carefully------VERY CAREFULLY , at your "Coil Wire".

Is this Still GM's OBD, or did you get a Late year OBD2 Setup?

Did the CE lt flash at you????

All the stuff you mentioned has the same thing in common.....Main Coil Wire.....

Did You look for the carbon tracks in the Cap????

Just for giggles.....Wrap the coil wire Heavily in Electrical tape.....

You may also do this to the cap.......A bit overkill....But hey if it works
 
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Old 05-28-09, 05:17 PM
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Its a '94 TG..gotta be amortized by now...time for a big new fancy rig!!!
 
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Old 05-28-09, 08:10 PM
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have you considered checking the fuel injector.. for a plugged injector... assuming your fuel pressure regulator is putting in the proper fuel ratio but a clogged injector....
 
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Old 05-28-09, 08:24 PM
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well all thier ideas sound very professional. maybe something simple? everyone should know cars are very complex machines but the fix is usually simple dont overthink the problem. my theory.. possible a bad plug??? u didnt metion anything about them in your blog so i figured i would throw that out there
 
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Old 05-29-09, 06:38 AM
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If you have a run of misfire (about 1/2 hour) and the chance to do it, I would pull plug wires with the engine running. Pull them all with engine off, sit them on loose. Then pull them one at a time to see which one doesn't add to the poor running condition.

If it isolates to one it would have to be in the cap, wire or plug if ignition. It could be a sticking valve or an injector. If it came down to it, the injector most likely.

You could have low fuel pressure = pump, regulator. Either can start with an intermittent problem and get progressively worse (most of this stuff you already know).

'94 is just getting broken in - keep after it.
 
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Old 05-29-09, 07:00 AM
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Yes -per rednecks response. Haven't you been able to isolate it to a particular cylinder at idle? A plug can look good and have such a hairline crack down deep in the insulator you can miss seeing it at first. I have had such misfires that have gone away at highway speeds - and they have been caused by cracked insulators on plugs. You could also have failure internally of the plug. But the key here is to know if it is just affecting one cylinder rather than random misfire. Yes -why over think the problem til we at least know this much?
 
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Old 05-29-09, 10:44 AM
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Sorry about the slow response, been a little tied up. Anyway here's answers chronologically.

Mark: Charging system and belts good. I recently had cranking problems (starter crapping out) so all that was checked as associated.

Unc: This is OBDI, can read codes via jumpering pins on the diagnostic connector. No CEL. No tracks under cap. Coil wire - forgot to mention that was tried when it was dead Tuesday. The wire set is about 9 months old. I haven't discounted maybe changing the whole set anyway; just trying to avoid shotgunning the fix.

Guns: Have you seen what they want for my style wrecker??????? Beer 4U2

doobie: When it was dead Tuesday it was definitely ignition problem. I have considered that there may be two different problems (dead ignition Tuesday and then a fuel problem once the ignition system was cured - by magic it seems), but I'm thinking it would be a little too coincidental. Ergo, I'm thinking still an ignition issue. Fuel system is TBI, pump replaced last year, filter fairly recently.

redneck: Thought about plugs, they were done back several months ago when I had the misfire that was ultimately the worn out distributor. The misfire at times seems like one cylinder and at others more than one, so I'm looking at, diezel pointed out, something common rather than, for instance, a single plug or wire.

mar: Did the plug-wire-pull already (forgot where I was in this sequence at the time) and could not ascertain any problems (on top of which the right bank is a cast-iron ***** to get at due to hydraulic lines running down that side to the back end). And yes, it's got a lot of life left in it at 541,000 miles.

ecma: Yeah, I'm trying to stay simple. As I mentioned aboove the misfire seems to flucuate between one cylinder and two or more, so I'm sort of leaning away from a single plug or wire. As with the plug wire set, I'm a little reluctant to shotgun a set of plugs. If it annoys me enough I'll problably do plugs and wires, but I don't really ythink that's the source.

Okay, went out to the truck and got my little black book, so here's the age of parts in addition to the items i swapped out now with known good stuff:

Distributor (included cap, rotor, and module) - 8,700 mi
Fuel pump - 8,900 mi
Plugs & wires - 17,000 mi
O2 sensor 41,000 mi
Alternator - 66,000 mi

And a daily update on the problem (OMG, I'm going to get banned for blogging!!!)

Started up this morning and immediately blipped the throttle a few times; could tell it ran up smooth with no misfire/stumble. About an hour later started up to go on a run and had a misfire for about 2 blocks (it's healing itself ) then smooth sailing.

Still scratching my head. Also nobody has opined what my tow buddy is convinced it is.
 
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Old 05-29-09, 01:47 PM
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A possibility is EGR, but that should have a code with it. The valve could be sticking slightly open, or not opening when it should.

An EGR fault doesn't just show itself at idle. That happens when the valve isn't closing fully. The functionality of the open EGR is much higher in the RPM range.

Not sure that would arguably be the case - just thinking of the could be s.
 
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Old 05-30-09, 04:37 AM
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Hmmm, about ready to try anything. The egr, I think, might be original believe it or not. Getting it off might be fun.

Truck has the weekend off. Wife and I are playing in a fund-raiser golf event today.
 
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Old 06-09-09, 10:18 AM
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Just a quick update. Truck ran all last week without missing a beat; thought the gremlin had ben excorcised. Got in truck this morning and it ran on 5 or 6 cylinders (maybe less) all the way to the first call (about 10 miles) then cleared up and hasn't missed since. Have to think this is a moisture issue (plenty of rain lately and heavy dew every morning), but still not able to pinpoint it. Going to try a dist cap since I have one kicking around, but of course may take a couple of weeks of driving before I decide if it's a fix owing to the intermittent nature.

BTW, wife and I shot par (it was best ball; sank a couple of monster puts and chipped one in, so I did my part ).
 
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Old 06-09-09, 04:36 PM
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Originally Posted by the_tow_guy View Post
Going to try a dist cap since I have one kicking around, but of course may take a couple of weeks of driving before I decide if it's a fix owing to the intermittent nature.
Can't wait to find out what the cause turns out to be. Ever pull the cap to see if moisture is in it?

BTW, wife and I shot par (it was best ball; sank a couple of monster puts and chipped one in, so I did my part ).
At a par 3 course for the 85-95 year olds down there in SW Florida to play on?
 
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Old 06-09-09, 08:54 PM
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Well, yes and no. When I had the totally dead incident I of course had the cap off whilst trying to figure out if it was module, coil, wires, who-knows-what. Looked at it more from a crack/carbon track point of view, but sure I would have noticed moisture. Starting to think I may never figure it out short of some component failing completely. Might have to get out the spray bottle some night and see if I can induce some visible arcing & sparking. If the phone doesn't start ringing at the crack of dawn tomorrow probably going to pull the cap for a quick look.

We usually play on a par 59 executive course, but this was on one of the swanky places inside a gated community complete with GPS-equipped carts. It was a benefit for the local youth soccer association:

North Port, Florida's Bobcat Trail Golf Club, a 4 Star Rated semi-private Golf Club.
 
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Old 06-10-09, 07:52 AM
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Originally Posted by the_tow_guy View Post
Well, yes and no. When I had the totally dead incident I of course had the cap off whilst trying to figure out if it was module, coil, wires, who-knows-what. Looked at it more from a crack/carbon track point of view, but sure I would have noticed moisture. Starting to think I may never figure it out short of some component failing completely. Might have to get out the spray bottle some night and see if I can induce some visible arcing & sparking. If the phone doesn't start ringing at the crack of dawn tomorrow probably going to pull the cap for a quick look.
If you can't seem to resolve this -call up one of those Saturday morning car repair radio shows. I'll be listening and waiting.

We usually play on a par 59 executive course, but this was on one of the swanky places inside a gated community complete with GPS-equipped carts. It was a benefit for the local youth soccer association:
That means if you par, you could say you shot a 59!

I've been in such places already. Not to play golf though. Makes you feel important just getting past the gate.
 
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Old 06-10-09, 01:43 PM
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This may sound very stupid, but are all your plugs tightly in? I had the occasional misifre with my 95 Jetta. My mechanic thought I was pulling her chain by the third time around and then she ehard a misfire. #2 plug was a little bit loose. Problem solved. My misfire happened whenever it wanted to, cold, hot, wet weather, dry weather, you name it.
 

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Old 06-10-09, 09:17 PM
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If you think it may be moisture on a connection (and not inside the distributor cap) you might try a blow type hair dryer on connections. I found one like that on the loom going to the coil on a Ford Ranger.

And after you get it fixed you can tidy your hair up a little.
 
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Old 06-10-09, 09:45 PM
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Just as an FYI, a loose spark plug will NOT show up as a trouble code.
 
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Old 06-11-09, 06:53 AM
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NOP: Not a spark plug.

Mar: Biggest problem is it goes away pretty fast or when it doesn't (30 min or so) I'm on the way to a job and can't stop to t/s, then in clears up before I'm done. got another moisture clue last night. Truck had been sitting all afternoon and I had to go out right after the daily cloudburst rolled through. Ran on about 5 or 6 cylinders for a couple of miles. This is a cab-over and with the distributor in the rear it is a little close to where water will run off the back of the cab (although there is a sheet metal "roof" attached to the back of the cab). I eyeballed it this morning to try to figure out what might be getting wet. The distributor is well under the "roof", but the connectors and their wiring exit to the rear and are pretty close to the overhang. I also ran my hand over everything before cranking up this morning to see if I could feel any dew anywhere, but came up dry even though everything else in sight was damp.

Ec: Yeah, Saturday call-in show is a definite possibility. Oh, and forgot to mention, at that golf course when you pull up all you have to do is pop the trunk and the club valet grabs your clubs, puts them in a cart. and gives you the cart number. Pretty swanky.
 
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Old 06-11-09, 09:28 AM
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I'll be listening to Sam's Garage. I set my alarm so I do not miss it every Saturday morning, for 2 hours. If I hear about someone from I presume North Port Charlotte?, I'll know.
 
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Old 06-12-09, 03:45 PM
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Well, picked up a replacement distributor that's going in tomorrow or Sunday. It is having a lot of the same symptoms as when the distributor crapped previously - the first when the original went and the second time when the new replacement wore out its bearing in 7,000 miles. Current one is at about 10,000. In my OP I mentioned my best tow buddy had a theory and this is what it was - that the distributor was the culprit, again. So if for no other reason than to humor him (and because I've run the tree on troubleshooting) going to try it. Stay tuned. Beer 4U2
 
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Old 06-12-09, 04:03 PM
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Hey, TG...without going all the way back and reading everything...could it be possibly a cam bearing/gear that has gone bad and is causing the distributor to go bad as well...

I know..yikes..that would suck. Not that I know if this is even a cam driven distributor....
 
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Old 06-12-09, 04:16 PM
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Originally Posted by the_tow_guy View Post
Well, picked up a replacement distributor that's going in tomorrow or Sunday. It is having a lot of the same symptoms as when the distributor crapped previously - the first when the original went and the second time when the new replacement wore out its bearing in 7,000 miles. Current one is at about 10,000. In my OP I mentioned my best tow buddy had a theory and this is what it was - that the distributor was the culprit, again. So if for no other reason than to humor him (and because I've run the tree on troubleshooting) going to try it. Stay tuned. Beer 4U2
You can't determine if bad first simply by seeing if it has ability to wiggle?
(Like you can if say wheel bearings are bad)

And/or if gear has slop - all this should show up on a dwell angle meter check.
 
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Old 06-12-09, 08:31 PM
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Originally Posted by Gunguy45 View Post
Hey, TG...without going all the way back and reading everything...could it be possibly a cam bearing/gear that has gone bad and is causing the distributor to go bad as well...

I know..yikes..that would suck. Not that I know if this is even a cam driven distributor....
gunguy has a point here. well you said that you have been through (3) dist. caps right? well logic would tell us that we should be looking at the symptoms but trying to attack the source. like i said im fairly young and dont have much internal engine expierience, (im mechanicly inclined but what i dont know i dont know) maybe you should start considering thing that would cause your dist. to malfunction.

just a suggestion Beer 4U2
 
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Old 06-13-09, 02:07 PM
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Okay, and the answer is......distributor was in fact bad. I'm going to keep everyone in suspense for a while because I'm doing some more detective work.

Late notes: yes, it is cam driven. No, it did not wiggle.

Yes, considered what could be causing them to fail from external source, i.e. engine internals. Engine has 120,000 miles on it; just getting broken in. Actually right now - and here's where I'm going to keep everyone in suspense - it appears as though there is an identifiable defect with the distributors. These are aftermarket "new" units from a major national franchise parts house (who shall go unnamed of course). I'll fill everyone in on the details in a week or two when I (hopefully) get to the bottom of things. For the time being it's running 4.0. Thanks to everyone for scratching their heads with me over this.
 
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Old 06-13-09, 04:28 PM
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I have known some headaches with distributors. I always thought it was the pickup coil if the bearings were good. They have always shown to be within resistance specs, but replacing the distributor fixed the problem.

In your case, as a work truck, I think I would replace it with an OEM. A bad one every 10,000 or so is a little too much.
 
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Old 06-14-09, 11:04 AM
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Actually looking at an aftermarket performance unit from someplace like Summit or Jegs; just haven't made up my mind yet. In the mean time, the one I stuck in it is working and was replaced under warranty, so if it lasts as long as the others I have a couple of months to decide. Beer 4U2
 
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Old 06-14-09, 12:39 PM
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Wouldn't you guys think that if a bearing or gear was bad on the distributor or what drives it, that it would no longer be intermittant misfire, but constant instead?
 
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Old 06-14-09, 01:01 PM
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Well...TG is holding out on us with the real problem...so who knows? LOL I just threw that out as a possibility. Different engine load, torque, cold oil hot oil..who knew. I was just thinking outside the block/box....to see what happened.
 
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Old 06-14-09, 01:09 PM
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Originally Posted by Gunguy45 View Post
Well...TG is holding out on us with the real problem...so who knows?
Hopefully we will find out if that was really the cause without having to wait til summer is over.
 
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Old 06-14-09, 01:15 PM
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He'll probably never tell..so the rest of us with 94 Chevy W-4's will have to find out on our own..lol
 
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Old 06-14-09, 01:43 PM
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And I just noticed something! Is Tg the only moderator left now on this forum?
 
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Old 06-15-09, 06:37 AM
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Yeah, I ran the others off; their cars are in my impound. BTW "moderator" is not synonymus with "professional mechanic who knows what he's doing".

As to the distributor issues; there is an easily noticed problem/issue which does not prevent installation and operation, but in more than one person's opinion may be at the root of premature failure. Ordered an aftermarket performance unit over the weekend vice continuing to play roulette with parts house ones. Decided to go with the JEGS; should be here by the weekend and then we'll see. Stay tuned.
 
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Old 06-15-09, 08:10 AM
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Off topic: Speaking of Jegs - I just found out this weekend watching NHRA that Scott Kalitta died in fiery crash last year and I never heard that til yesterday. That was a shock.

Does a part with the Jegs name on it cost an arm and a leg?
 
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Old 06-15-09, 09:19 AM
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Buck and a half for the distributor; not too bad comparatively speaking.
 
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Old 06-22-09, 07:06 AM
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And the answer is - drum roll please - bad plug wires......maybe.

I say maybe for a couple of reasons. Number one is that you may remember I had a five day respite from the problem a while back, so I figure i need a couple of weeks to be sure (plus I haven't started it today yet, so hold your breath). Number two is I changed plugs and fuel filter at the same time. The old fuel filter had very little resistance when I blew though it, so I doubt that was the problem. The plugs all had average wear/color, even the one I broke while removing.

Comments on the plug wires: As noted earlier, plugs and wires had about 17,000 miles on them (just over six months), so there was no reason to immediately suspect them. Post-removal inspection showed no external problems and they all ohmed out okay. But the REAL puzzlement is the episode in this adventure when the truck was completely dead and I had no spark from the coil. Obviously that could not have been the plug wires or plugs. Side note to Diezel: was definitely not the main coil wire; when I bought the wire set I immediately replaced the coil wire - since I could do that right away without waiting for things to cool down - and there was no change.

Still pretty confusing. Almost had to have more than one issue in play.
 
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Old 06-22-09, 04:48 PM
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To have some sort of sporadic condition affecting the coil one minute and the plug firing some other occasion really makes it seem like if one problem were common it be in the distributor pickup.

Thanks for keeping us updated though. Let the saga continue.
 
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Old 06-22-09, 05:50 PM
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OMG it runs so nice when everything is primo! Beer 4U2
 
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Old 06-22-09, 06:14 PM
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Yeah...for now....
Why don't you just donate it to a guy who would like to start a business and write it off. Hey..I know this guy in AZ.....
 
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Old 06-23-09, 06:37 AM
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Last week that was probably an option. Plus moisture seemed to be the trigger which wouldn't be a problem out there.
 
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